Sri Lanka overcame a poor start with bat and ball to put on an impressive all-round display on Sunday and win the Asia Cup for the sixth time with a 23-run win over Pakistan in Dubai. Bhanuka Rajapaksa hit an unbeaten 71 off 45 balls in Dubai and led Sri Lanka as it recovered from 58-5 to reach 170-6 in 20 overs. Pakistan, in response, crashed to 147 all out off the last balls as its top order continued to struggle against the Pramod Madushan and Wanindu Hasaranga, who shared seven wickets.
Sri Lanka also saw initial struggles with Haris Rauf (3-29) inflicting damage inside the first nine overs. But Rajapaksa and Hasaranga led the recovery with a 50-plus partnership. Surprisingly, Pakistan captain Babar Azam used Mohammad Nawaz for only one over which went for three runs as both Sri Lankan batters cut loose against Naseem Shah and Mohammad Hasnain. Scrappy show on the field rubbed salt on the wound.
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Former Pakistan players Rashid Latif and Moin Khan questioned the sluggish approach of Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed, and also passed their verdict on Babar’s captaincy. Rizwan and Iftikhar added 71 runs for the third wicket in almost 10 overs as Sri Lanka kept mounting the pressure with tight bowling.
“When they were 58 for 5, it seemed the target would be 120-130. But Wanindu Hazaranga received pressure of Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Runs kept coming from 11th over on to the 15th. He took the game in his hands and Rajapaksa too started,” Rashid Latif told PTV.
“The biggest mistake was in bowling. If I were the captain, I would have bowled out Haris Rauf after five wickets fell and gone for wickets. Instead, Babar bowled part-time spinner. That surprised me. The main spinner was Mohammad Nawaz and you gave him just one over then. I wouldn’t even have bought him but attacked with fast bowlers. No wickets fell from the 8th to 15 and run-rate also kept climbing.
And in our chase too, we batted slowly. Chase aisey nahi hote (This is not how you chase)” Latif said.
Moin said Babar thought of final overs instead of attacking with fast bowlers, who scythed through the opposition top order in the powerplay. He also questioned Pakistan’s fielding in the crucial game.
“We should have attacked with our main bowlers, the fast bowlers. That’s what common sense says. I don’t know why Babar was dragging the match; I guess he started thinking about the final overs. That’s negative thinking. Then you can’t plan. When you are positive, you could have gone all-out. Also, the fielding …,” he said.